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The Legend of the Maid of Buttermere

What a curious legend this is. With three of the individuals involved having at least two names!

How this curious legend began ....
Char and Trout fishing used to be very good in Buttermere and Crummock Water and with the advent of a better road, so began the trend of tourism to beautiful Buttermere.

One of these new tourists, who wrote under the persona A Rambler was Joseph Palmer, who on visiting Buttermere, was quite enchanted by the beauty of Mary Robinson, the daughter of the Inn at Buttermere now known as the Fish Inn.

maid of buttermere

Interestingly he referred to Mary as Sally of Buttermere, whether this was to protect her identity, is unknown. If it was, then his efforts failed. His writings encouraged travellers to visit the area not only for the good fishing and idyllic surroundings, but also to seek out this renowned Beauty of Buttermere. One of these travellers gave his name as Colonel Alexander Hope, brother to an Earl.

Local reporter Samuel Taylor Coleridge was obviously drawn by this romantic story; of how Colonel Hope had wooed the renowned Beauty of Buttermere as he wrote about their marriage in his newspaper column, leading it to reach the national papers.

Colonel Hope could never have envisaged that his marriage to an Inn Keepers daughter in a small Cumbrian village would reach National news in this way, but in doing so his ruse was foiled. He was identified, not as a Colonel at all, but as plain John Hatfield, who was not only bankrupt but already married.

Following the trial and hanging of her bigamist husband, Mary re-married a local and eventually took over the running of the Fish Inn. A larger version of this story, which prompted Melvyn Bragg to write his version of the 'The Maid of Buttermere' can be found in many local history/legend books of Cumbria and there is also, as you might expect, an interesting link on the Fish Inn website too.

The story of this beautiful village girl also made an impact on Wordsworth, who alluded to Mary in his poem The Prelude in which he referred to Mary as The Maid of Buttermere

I mean, O distrant Friend! a story drawn
From our own ground,- the Maid of Buttermere,-
And how the spoiler came, 'a bold bad Man'
To God unfaithful, children, wife, and home,
And wooed the artless daughter of the hills,
And wedded her, in cruel mockery
Of love and marriage bonds. O friend, I speak
With tender recollection of that time
When first we saw the maiden, then a name
By us unheard of; in her cottage inn
Were welcomed and attended on by her,
Both stricken with one feeling of delight,

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